Bert Jansch 1943-2011

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Once again, another of this blog's heroes has departed this world. This morning (5th October) saw the sad demise of Bert Jansch, one of the best guitarists ever produced by Britain. He died in a London hospice from the effects of lung cancer, which had been diagnosed in 2009.


Bert Jansch was a major figure in the folk revival of the 1960's both as a solo performer and as a founding member of Pentangle. A Pentangle CD is a permanent fixture in my car's sound system. Regular readers will remember that when I compiled my own Desert Island Discs I included a Pentangle track. Click through for more details.

And this is a more recent rendition of the track I chose - Light Flight - from 2008:


They hadn't lost it, had they? One of the appealing things about this song is the unusual time signature: it's in 5/4 time, i.e. five beats to the bar. Apart, that is, from the sections in 5/8, 7/8 or 6/4. You have to be good to get away with things like that. (If you are sure you know this song, but can't remember from where, ask the question in the comments section.)

Bert had already been a successful performer and recording artist (with John Renbourn) when they formed Pentangle in 1967, a band that continued until the first break-up in 1971 but then managed to maintain enough of a coherency for the five founding members to be given BBC Radio 2 Lifetime Achievement Awards in 2007. And, as you can see from the above video, they were still going strong in 2008. Bert himself gave his last public performance in August, just six weeks or so ago.

One of the quotes I remember about Bert Jansch's playing came from Billy Connolly many years ago. Bert Jansch, Billy said was " of those guitar players that makes you feel as you only have one hand: and it's growing out of the top of your head".

Unlike the late Gerry Rafferty, Bert overcame a serious drinking problem, becoming completely sober in the late 1980's, an act that undoubtedly saved his life. He was known to be a very self-effacing man, as great men often are, and was content to let his talent speak for itself. And if you remain in any doubt about Bert's ability with stringed instruments, please just listen to the performance below.


(UPDATE 5/10/11)

I have been reminded of this. Click the GO button, sit back, close your eyes and marvel...


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